May 12 – International Nurses Day

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History: The Nurses day was first proposed and proclaimed by Dorothy Sutherland, an official in the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare, in the year 1953. It was only since 1965 the International Council of Nurses (ICN) commemorated Nurses Day. It was in 1974, 12th May was chosen by the ICN for the celebration of International Nurses Day, as it was the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. Each year ICN makes selection of a theme and directs the activities of the nurses towards the theme across the world. On this occasion, ICN prepares and distributes educational and public information kit for use throughout the year by nurses everywhere.
This year’s theme is ‘A Force for Change: Improving health systems’ resilience’
This year Nurses day kit examines the many ways in which nurses can contribute to developing and resilient health systems – locally, nationally and globally. It also provides guidance for nurses and policy makers. By promoting the nursing voice, we can help guide improvements in the quality of health service delivery and systems.
“The resilience of a health system is its capacity to respond, adapt, and strengthen when exposed to a shock, such as a disease outbreak, natural disaster, or conflict.”
In the busy life of most practising nurses, thinking about how we can support and strengthen the health system we work in is not a common activity. Yet the need to develop our thinking, planning and profile in this important area is all too evident. We are a vital force for the changes that the system needs.
It is our duty to ensure that governments and policy makers understand that a well-informed confident nursing leaders are essential in developing workforce to meet new challenges.
The nurse workforce has a long history of responding to the changing needs of society. We have developed our practice to tackle public health challenges and to ensure the provision of high quality care. Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st century, significant gains have been made in increasing life expectancy and reducing many of the risk factors associated with child and maternal mortality. Nurses have made significant contributions to improving child survival and their impact is well documented.
Indeed, the nursing workforce is increasingly well educated and able to connect with citizens, communities, policy makers and each other. However, the need to adapt and change more quickly is evident and the challenges set out in the next 15 years will require a new generation of innovation and leadership. As nurses gain a higher profile in the development of local, national and international responses, we need to have confident well-informed leaders who understand their role in developing a workforce to meet new challenges.
Nurses at the core of resilience: Nurses make a significant contribution to developing and maintaining resilience in health systems. We contribute to service development; supervise and develop other members of the team; work with and advocate for patients, their carers and communities; and collect data and inform the development of evidence.
The importance of nursing at all levels of the health system, including governmental and policy levels, is recognised in health systems strengthening.
Ventura et al (2015) reviewed the evolution of WHO’s initiatives for strengthening nursing and midwifery and found clear documentation of the increasing importance of nurses as multidisciplinary health team members and their role in the improvement of health systems. Nurse leaders involved in health systems capacity building bring knowledge of population needs and can ensure that strategies are in line with these needs.
There is also a clear link between the vital role nurses play and the availability of evidence. Nurse leaders should be present at all levels of the health system in order to participate in health systems capacity building that is based on population needs.
Nurses must play an integral role in leading change. With redesigned health systems and full participation of nurses in policy, we will be better equipped to provide quality care for all, even in times of difficulties.
We are the one who can promote positive practice environments which will in turn result in improved health system resilience and health outcomes.
(The writer is the president of Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI), Manipur Branch)

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